There are few things in this world I love more than a really
great nonfiction book. Fiction books follow closely behind, as my second
most-loved things in this world, sure. But really, if I’m going to be honest,
my stranded-on-a-desert-island-forever packing list definitely includes a
library made up entirely of nonfiction. And nonfiction books by women, about
women, and for women are definitely always at the top of my must-reads list.
There’s just something totally transforming about a really
well-told true story. Not only are nonfiction titles great for teaching you
something new or introducing you to a new place you’ve never heard of or
traveled to before, but they also introduce you to new people — people who have
changed the world, invented something cool, completed some totally bad-ass
endeavor, or just dived really deep into their own journey of personal
transformation. All inspiration-worthy feats, in my opinion. Plus, since the stories that fill nonfiction
books are true, that means their characters are true too — existing in the very
same world you do, with e-mail addresses, where you can write them thanking
them for sharing their transforming tale and inquiring as to whether or not
they might be in the market for a new best friend, for instance. I don’t know
about you, but Hermione Granger has yet to respond to a single one of my
Are you willing to love nonfiction as much as I do? Then check
out these 12 nonfiction books that every woman should read.
1. The Dead Ladies
Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries by Jessa Crispin
At 30 years old Jessa Crispin whittled down her life into
two suitcases and headed for Berlin, with no specific plan. This impromptu
adventure quickly turned into a journey across Europe — to places of
significant literary merit, where writers past had ventured in order to
reinvigorate their spirits, revitalize their creative lives, and break free of
their hometowns. The Dead Ladies Project
is one woman’s on-the-road journey, as she explores the appeal of escape and
personal reinvention, through the eyes of a writer.
2. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem
If you’ve already read Gloria Steinem’s latest girl-power
tome, My Life On the Road
, then it’s
definitely time to revisit some of her earlier contributions to bookish
badassery. Outrageous Acts and Everyday
is a collection of Steinem’s essays from her first 30 years of
women’s liberation work — from her thoughts on periods and birth control to
mothering and Playboy
, Steinem covers it all.
3. I'm With the Band:
Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres
From a comfortable middle-class life in Reseda, California to
becoming one of the most legendary groupies to grace the rock ‘n roll scene,
Pamela Des Barres had a front-row seat for some of the most iconic concerts in
music history — and spent all kinds of time following the musicians who
performed them. I'm With the Band:
Confessions of a Groupie
tells the story of Des Barres totally enviable lifetime
spent among musical legends.
4. White Walls: A
Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between by Judy
If you’re a woman who’s contemplating (or considering
contemplating) motherhood, this just-released memoir is definitely a must-read.
From a childhood spent in the house of her hoarding mother, memoirist Judy
Batalion constructed an adulthood filled with clean lines, organized shelves,
and white walls. Until she became a mother herself, that is, and feared her
long-awaited life of order would fly right out the window. White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In
tells a story of mother-daughter relationships in a way that is
fresh, honest, sad, and funny all at the same time.
5. Mary McGrory: The
First Queen of Journalism by John Norris
For 50 years syndicated columnist Mary McGrory reported on
politics; everything from the McCarthy hearings to Watergate to September 11th.
As one of the first syndicated female journalists, she paved the way for future
female reporters like Christiane Amanpour, Maureen Dowd, Joan Didion, and Gail
Collins. Mary McGrory: The First Queen of
takes readers not only through McGrory’s reportage, but also
behind the scenes where she spent most of her early career partying hard and
working harder through the boys’ club that was journalism back then.
6. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you’re not totally obsessed with writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie yet, it’s definitely time to jump on that bandwagon. Exploring what feminism means today — for diverse women, with diverse experiences, living all over the world — We Should All Be Feminists
takes a critical look at sexual politics, the marginalization of women, the way women themselves understand the word "feminism," and why dis-empowering women harms both women and men.
7. How We Live Now:
Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century by Bella DePaulo
From multi-generational homes to intentional communities
made up of friends to married couples who live in separate homes and are more
in love than ever, Bella DePaulo’s How We
Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century
looks at the
evolution of the American family and it’s chosen living arrangements. Not only
will it prove that you’re not, in fact, the only person in this world who
thinks renting adjoining apartments ‘til death do you part is totally the way
to go, this book will totally help you answer all those pesky questions your grandmother
asks about your living situation every time she visits.
8. She's Not There: A
Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
If you weren’t familiar with Jennifer Finney Boylan before
you met her on I Am Cait
probably are now. The transgender professor and writer shares her own experiences
of struggle and joy as she learned to share her true self with those around her.
She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders
not only explores Boylan’s personal experience, but examines the complex
boundaries of being ‘male’ and ‘female’ and what it would mean for the world to
understand gender norms differently.
9. Men Explain Things
to Me by Rebecca Solnit
I’m not sure who precisely invented the term "mansplaining" (although
Rebecca Solint has often been given credit) but serious kudos to her, because
it’s a term the English language was sorely lacking — especially since the
practice of mansplaining has existed since basically forever. In Men Explain Things to Me
describes the trouble with conversations between men and women: that being that
men think they know all the things, and are responsible for telling them to the
women. This book, in addition to being equal parts hilarious and frustrating,
also takes a serious exploration into the life-or-death severity that the act of
silencing women can really have.
10. The Heart of a
Woman by Maya Angelou
When Maya Angelou left California for New York, she was
quickly thrown into a world of Harlem-based artists and writers, the Civil
Rights Movement, and encounters with the likes of Billie Holiday and Malcolm X.
Simultaneously, The Heart of a Woman
is a memoir of womanhood and motherhood, as Angelou raises her young son in the
big city, against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America. This memoir tells the story of one artist, activist, and mother who somehow managed to do it all at a time when the world expected the exact opposite from her.
11. Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
From Russia to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Emma Goldman
certainly had a life. Her autobiography, Living
My Life, tells the story of that life — Goldman’s anarchistic political
bend and her career as an activist-journalist, to her advocacy for birth
control, women’s liberation, and free love and her subsequent imprisonment for
allegedly inciting a riot, you’ll have a hard time finding some act of
rebellion this no-holds-barred feminist didn’t participate in during her
12. The Fran Lebowitz
Reader by Fran Lebowitz
Fran Lebowitz has the fantastic ability to look at life and
those around her as, say, an alien being from a vastly more advanced
civilization than ours would. Filled with humor, wit, irony, and that complete “can-you-believe-these-people?”
attitude Lebowitz is known for, The Fran
is a collection of Lebowitz’s best essays, pulled from her
previous two collections, Metropolitan
and Social Studies
You’ll walk away from this collection
viewing the world with a little more humor and a lot more sass. And let's face it: Who couldn't use more of both?
Image: Matteo Merzi/Flickr